Looking Back on My 2023 Favorites in New York and Connecticut – by Karen Isaacs

I don’t do a ten-best list; instead, I like to recall some of my favorite shows of the past year.

My NYC City Favorites: Other critics loved some of these and didn’t like some. But I am glad I saw them. I thoroughly enjoyed:

Merrily We Roll Along – this Sondheim musical had a rocky original run, but the score is so good that productions keep popping up. This revival (now on Broadway, but I saw it off-Broadway) makes a strong case for its worth.

Parade ­­– Another show that had a disappointing initial run; it got a stellar revival (and a Tony award). It isn’t the easiest show to watch, but it is an important show.

Sweeney Todd
– Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford made the two leading roles their own, giving the show a different but very appropriate tone. I always love the gasps at the end of the show, even sometimes from people who have seen it before.

Some Like It Hot – an old-fashioned musical with songs and dances that had you tapping your feet. It deserved a much longer run than it got.

& Juliet – I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did; I found the book inventive and smart, and the cast terrific.

Days of Wine & Roses
–I saw this during its off-Broadway run. Right now it is in previews on Broadway and I want to see it again. It’s a tough story about alcoholism, but well done. Besides, I would see Kelli O’Hara and Brian D’Arcy James in almost anything.

Fat Ham – a comic take on Hamlet, set in the South was inventive and absolutely a delight.

Translations– The Irish Rep’s production of the Brian Friel play featured an outstanding cast.

Harmony– this musical about a forgotten singing group had many wonderful moments. Yes, it isn’t perfect, but I saw it both off-Broadway and the current production; I still liked it.

I Can Get It for You Wholesale – the off-Broadway production of this forgotten musical. It reminds you that “dark” shows and unpleasant main characters in musicals is not a new phenomenon.

Endgame – The Irish Rep’s production featured exquisite acting, plus Bill Irwin’s imaginative clowning.

Connecticut Theater Shone:

I had many wonderful moments in Connecticut theatres this year. The standout plays:

A Winter’s Tale (Hartford Stage) -Melia Bensoussan proved she will continue the tradition of excellent Shakespeare productions at Hartford Stag.

Clyde’s (TheaterWorks Hartford) — If your mouth didn’t water as the employees of the sandwich shop described ideal combinations, your taste buds are jaded. The basic idea – four employees dealing with a difficult boss – isn’t new, but the performances and writing made it seem new.

The Salvagers (Yale Rep) – I might argue about the theme of this play, but I can’t argue with the outstanding performances and the thought-provoking plot.

Dial M for Murder (Westport Country Playhouse) – this was a stylish adaptation of the film with the added bonus of Kate Burton as the inspector. It was the last show of Artistic Director Mark Lamos’ rein.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Bushnell) – Richard Thomas and the entire cast hold your attention in this excellent adaptation of the Harper Lee novel.

Majada (Yale Rep) – Adapting Greek tragedy to modern times is problematic, but Majada, based on Medea made a strong case for how could be done.

A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas (Hartford Stage) – Adaptor and director Michael Wilson returned to Hartford Stage and gave this returning production some new twists. A new Scrooge added another dimension. I will see it again next year.

Indecent (Playhouse on Park) – Playhouse on Park doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter, This production shone..

The musical productions were strong, as well. I loved:

The Secret Garden (ACT-CT) – The theater managed to put aside some of its over-the-top tendencies to produce a tender, well directed and well-cast production of this less often done musical.

The 12 (Goodspeed – Chester) – I had my doubts about a musical based on the Apostles right after the crucifixion. But this new show featured fine performances and good music.

Dreamgirls (Goodspeed) – Instead of holiday songs, Goodspeed gave us a fine production of this

Lizzie (TheaterWorks Hartford ) – I’m not a fan of the modern rock musical; I thought Six was an extended concert. But Lizzie delighted me.

Jersey Boys
(MTC) – seeing this well-known musical in a small, intimate theater with the performers only feet away, gave it a new feel and a new dimension.

Summer Stock
(Goodspeed) – This new musical was a total delight. Yes, it is old-fashioned in that it has tuneful songs and a less-than-meaningful plot, but it had excellent performances and the dancing of Corbin Belu.

Private Jones
(Goodspeed – Chester) – World War I and a deaf soldier becomes a top sniper. This new musical that is still in development featured an inventive set, sound and lighting designs and a terrific performance by Johnny Link. It also integrated sign language into the show.

The Color Purple (Ivoryton) – Ivoryton proves over and over that it can present fine productions of bigger shows. This was no exception with excellent work by all the actors in the main roles.

Bookmark the permalink.